Tell Congress: Investigate the Harm Caused by SESTA/FOSTA
The last big revision to Section 230, SESTA/FOSTA, censored wide swaths of the Internet and got people killed. The SAFE SEX Workers Study Act gives us a crucial opportunity to fully understand the impact of Section 230 changes on the lives of marginalized people, especially those who trade sex. Sign the petition to demand that Congress investigate the collateral damage of bad Internet policy before passing the disastrous EARN IT Act.
Framed as an anti-trafficking bill, SESTA/FOSTA appeared noble on its face when it was signed into law in 2018. Despite sex workers’ pleas to understand how this would impact people trading sex, Congress passed this over-broad carve out from Section 230. Almost immediately, sex workers’ fears came true: out of fear of litigation, SESTA/FOSTA pushed online platforms to tear down the platforms and connection to community that kept sex workers safe.
One after another, the sites where sex workers found clients and work closed down. Craigslist removed its Personals section and Backpage shuttered. Sex worker communities, allies and people profiled to be sex workers were blocked and banned on a range of platforms. Almost overnight, sex workers lost crucial tools for vetting clients, sharing tips, and stabilizing their income, pushing many into far-riskier forms of work.
It’s clear that SESTA/FOSTA’s harms far outweigh any good: it has only been used once to aid in Federal sex trafficking prosecutions, but sex workers—a large percentage of whom are transgender and/or people of color—have reported a shocking increase in homicidal attacks, self-harm, and suicide.
SESTA/FOSTA has joined the long list of spurious Internet bills with stomach-churning consequences for human life and human rights. Luckily, with the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act, we have the chance to prevent more mistakes like SESTA/FOSTA.This is a critical opportunity to understand the real-world impact of Internet policy. Sign the petition and urge your representatives to pass the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act!
From: [Your Name]
I call on my senators and representatives to pass the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act so that Congress can understand the disastrous impacts of SESTA/FOSTA.
Many people who trade sex rely on Internet platforms to vet clients, stabilize their incomes, and build community. Because of SESTA/FOSTA, signed into law in 2018, sex workers lost crucial resources for keeping themselves safe and have reported an increase in violence, exploitation, and suicide.
We also know that SESTA/FOSTA is ineffective as a law enforcement tool: a GAO report found that it has only been used one time in three years to prosecute an instance of promotion of prostitution. This bill has hurt far more vulnerable people than it has helped.
It’s especially crucial to study and expose the destructive effects of SESTA/FOSTA before considering legislation like the EARN IT Act, which could reproduce those harms—or worse. Passing the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act will help ensure that the needs of those most impacted by anti-trafficking policies are at the center of the conversation on future Internet legislation.